When Jeri and I moved into our first home together on Newlin Avenue in Whittier, in February of 1978, it seems like we were having a party every other weekend. We had a big backyard, so it wasn't a problem. We brought the record player outside, the BBQ grill and plenty of meat to grill, a keg of beer, sometimes two, maybe some Jack Daniels and/or some tequila, and all the albums we owned at the time. Our friends brought their own music too.
Sometimes the parties got a little out of hand and the cops would come and shut us down, at other times they lasted into the wee hours of the early morning. Sometimes the neighbors complained but more often than not they would walk through the gate and join in. We listened to a lot of different music, mostly rock, oldies and Motown but in the very late hours when we were doing our most serious drinking it was Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and Merle Haggard. It was Merle Haggard that seemed to reach me the most. His music was so relevant to those things that were going on in my own life, good and bad.
On some days we had a lot of company and on other days it was just a few good friends but the core of our friends that stayed late to close out the night (or morning) were my cousins David and Dolores Robles, and close friends Sergio and Denise Billings, Mike Teran and Ken Robledo. There were others that came and went but this was the core. We would bring out any and all chairs and sit around the grill and talk about life and the future, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying a little and sometimes even arguing. All the while it was Merle Haggard and the boys in the background taking us through the night.
These are the days and nights and friends that come to mind whenever I hear Merle Haggard on the radio. I own many of his CD's but there is still something special about hearing one of your favorite songs or artist on the radio, even if you have all his CD's.
This song “If We Make it Through December” always reminds me of those early, hard, lean times my wife and I had so long ago. The man has been made silent now but his music remains with us.